For those of you who never heard it, I have a statistic.
Today was the first time we’ve won eleven games in a season for 10 years.
Think about that for a minute.
That’s how long we’ve been a really poor side.
And a massive indicator of how far we’ve come this season.
So while I might seem a bit critical today, my comments should be put into context, where expectations are way higher this year.
So what am I going to complain about?
Not a lot really. I keep getting this nagging feeling though, that if we hadn’t got that second minute goal, that game would have made for very uncomfortable viewing.
It was a pretty good game for the neutrals I think and it certainly had me on the edge of my seat for long periods, such was Arsenal’s domination of possession around our box. It always worries me and I always get that feeling that a goal is coming imminently.
That’s what you get when you’re used to seeing us concede weakly, week in, week out.
Today though, our defence was outstanding, with Mings blocking everything that came his way.
I don’t hide the fact that I don’t rate him in the slightest, but I’d be perfectly happy to change my opinion and say I think he’s brilliant. Today, he went some way towards persuading me.
He wasn’t alone either, which is what I found so pleasing. Konsa was solid, Cash had a brilliant game defending and going forward and I couldn’t get my head around how Targett seems to have improved. He’s nothing like the wuss we all had him down as when he first joined us. He’s much more willing to put his body on the line and there was one incident where an Arsenal player ran full pelt into him and literally just bounced off him. It actually made me laugh.
So while Arsenal seemed the much more dominant side generally, they weren’t really effective. They had a few shots but not having looked at the stats and from memory, it didn’t seem like they had many on target.
When we attacked, I thought we actually looked a fair threat, but we lacked incisiveness too. It goes back to the beginning where I think I wouldn’t have been as pleased as I am if the score was 0-0.
Did we deserve the win? I’m not sure. Possibly a draw would have been a fair result, but it doesn’t matter. We got the goal and they didn’t.
So what do I think won us the game, if I think Arsenal dominated things?
It was the effort. Putting any debate about tiredness to one side, there was absolutely no sign of that today.
All the players ran their guts out and I particularly noticed Traore getting back to help out. I never really noticed him actually do anything in defence, but hey, one step at a time and he at least was in the right sort of area to offer an option for Cash, who was overloaded at times.
Barkley was much better today and worked very hard. I’m not convinced he was very effective in the middle, but he did link up with Grealish a few times and I think he did a lot of work in hustling the opposition. The midfielder wasn’t happy when he was substituted and in fact he looked livid, which led to him kicking a bottle of water in anger.
I think that’s a good thing to see. The last thing you want is a player who wants to come off.
McGinn’s workrate was improved too and he was full of energy.
Nakamba looked mostly comfortable and I feel, a big improvement on Luiz who’s been off for a good few weeks.
Traore was excellent too, being very inventive and today was definitely one of those up times for him.
Watkins’ workrate was even more astounding than ever and one time, where he must have ran back seventy yards to help out in defence demonstrated perfectly how hard the lads worked today.
It was great to see. But it made me ask myself why, if we were able to work so hard today, were we so lacklustre in the previous two games?
Complacency? While you’d hope not, it’s certainly a possibility.
But regardless, it seemed to me that Dean Smith had had a word with them.
And they responded. In spades.
I don’t think we could have asked any more of the lads today. Which I think might have changed my mind.
Did we deserve the win?
Too bloody right we did!
Well done lads and Up the Villa!